The Old Rip van Winkle brand dates back to the 19th century when A. W. Balgh & Co. of New York created it in 1871. The brand became one of the brands sold by A. Ph. Stitzel Distillery as medicinal spirits during prohibition. That is when the trademark was acquired and it became part of the Stitzel-Weller portfolio after prohibition, but it was not a brand ever marketed to any extent. When Julian van Winkle started his own company after selling Stitzel-Weller he took the Old Rip Van Winkle trademark with him as part of the distillery sale. He created a label and bottled 107 and 90 proof versions of the brand. They were usually 7 year old Bourbons and served as the major brand for his company. It was often sold in apothecary jar style porcelain decanters but also in bottles similar to the ones used today.

When Julian III took over the company after his father’s death he created 10 year old and 15 year old versions of the brand and discontinued the younger age statement. The 10 year old was 90 and 107 proofs and the 15 year old was 107 proof. Today the 15 year old has become Pappy 15 year old and the 90 proof version of the 10 year old has been discontinued.

Old Rip Van Winkle

Proof: 107

Age: 10 years old

Nose: Chocolate and caramel with a hint of apples and hazelnut.

Taste: Tart apple and caramel with hint of cinnamon and oak. A thick creamy mouth feel and a warm heat going down, but no burn. Tasted with a cranberry makes the cinnamon take a back seat and brings out the chocolate and caramel. Tasted with a pecan causes the tart apple to come forward and adds a peppery spice note.

Finish: Dry oak and baking spices that last a long time. A cranberry makes the finish very oaky and dry. The pecan makes the finish very peppery and dry with some oak tannins

Notes: This Bourbon also goes very well with chocolate – the darker the better. Julian told me it is also very good with Gouda cheese. I like it with a cigar and today I am smoking a Gurkha The Classic Cigar – Havana Blend. The Bourbon adds a sweet note to the smoke and the smoke gives the Bourbon rich caramel and chocolate. A great combination.

Photos Courtesy of Michael Veach